When Compostela patissier-chief executive officer Kwon Young-mi decided she wanted to create sphere-shaped cakes she had no idea how difficult it would be. She also had no idea they would be such a hit.
“When I first tried to make the cakes, it was hard and I realised why people tend not to do it,” Kwon said, in half jest.
Kwon stuck to her concept and succeeded.
When one walks into her newly-minted dessert cafe, colorful, glossy globes of sweetness are the main attraction, a toothsome vibrance heightened by a minimal white and gray space.
647-23 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Open Mondays through Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m., closed Sundays
Cakes cost 7,200 won ($8.89) to 7,900 won, canelles and matcha and fig pound cake cost 2,800 won to 3,200 won each, coffee-based drinks cost 4,000 won to 6,000 won.
Why spheres? Kwon explained that she christened her shop Compostela, a word that is believed to originate from the Latin phrase “Campus Stellae,” which means “field of stars.”
“I was thinking of how to do cakes with personality and the idea worked with the name of my spot,” Kwon said, explaining how stars tied into planets.
Kwon took her concept a step further and christened her cakes after the planets in the Solar System - Earth, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Pluto, Venus and Saturn.
The idea took.
Now only three months into business, Kwon finds herself busy whipping up cakes to satisfy a stream of customers who have managed to find her spot on a small street near Dosan Park in Seoul.
One will find cafe-goers populating the 24-seat space, digging into Compostela’s orb-shaped cakes.
“Our most popular cake is Mercury,” said Kwon.
For Compostela’s Mercury, Kwon took a cue from tiramisu, creating a mascarpone cheese mousse around an espresso jelly center and a layer of espresso-soaked ladyfingers. In lieu of the traditional outer layer of cocoa powder, she embedded small crunchy chocolate pearls into the cake.
“Our next most popular cake is our Jupiter,” Kwon said of a cake that fuses Earl Grey tea with milk chocolate.
In addition to her in-demand cakes, Kwon is always working on new treats.
For February she revamped her originally tropical fruit-oriented Venus into a strawberry-based dessert.
“I went for strawberries because of Valentine’s Day and also because they are in season,” Kwon explained.
The small crown of fresh strawberries adorning a glossy white globe of vanilla mousse not only makes Compostela’s aptly-named Venus suitable for Valentine’s Day, as long it stays on the menu, this dessert merits a taste.
Fresh strawberries add a juicy, slightly tart sweetness to the layers of vanilla and strawberry mousse swaddling a center of strawberry syrup-soaked ladyfingers and strawberry jelly. A crunchy white chocolate base completes the fragrant and delicate dessert.
Fans of pecan pie will enjoy Compostela’s Earth, a sweet, rich pecan pie topped with uber-soft chocolate mousse and covered with a dome-shaped chocolate shell.
There are also moist mini matcha pound cakes embedded with port wine-infused figs and cannelles that come in a variety of flavors.
Kwon, who studied pastries and bread in New York before working in the restaurant and bakery industry for seven to eight years, is already developing a new matcha-based cake.
“I am always working on ideas for new desserts on a daily basis,” said Kwon.